Friday, March 30, 2007

Excuse Me?!!

That was what I said to my friend when he told me about Fukuya. It was the way he pronounced it that reminded me of the twins Fuk Mi and Fuk Yu in Austin Powers. Hilarious! Anyway, I've heard rave reviews about this place. Mostly about the impressive building and value for money kaiseki lunch. I've been hoping to try it out and finally got the opportunity yesterday.

I wasn't sure of its whereabouts but I was pretty sure I was on the wrong road when I spotted the cool, clean white building on my left. You can't possibly miss it on Jalan Delima. I can see why my friends found this building impressive. It has a long walkway from the car park to the main body of the restaurant and several glass front villas on each side. Threatening grey clouds loomed over the restaurant, black fabric flapped in the wind and I was greeted by a waitress in black bent at the waist in full bow. It was very dramatic! My partners were waiting for me at a table by a large glass window that overlooked a lush bamboo garden. Think Crouching Tiger minus Chow Yun Fatt balancing on a branch. Two of us ordered the kaiseki lunch (RM58++) and my other partner ordered from their lunch menu - two dishes with rice, pickles, chawan mushi, miso soup and dessert (RM40++).

While waiting for our food, we were given chilled apple juice. Not just any apple juice. It had the distinctive taste of Fuji apple. It was good stuff. The chef at Fukuya is from Waraku. There are some similarities with the decor and menu. However, the finishing at this place is a little shoddy. There were some odd bits of furniture lying about and there is a unfinished feel about this place. I'm sure its not noticeable at night but with the floor to ceiling windows, the bright daylight was unforgiving.

Our food arrived swiftly and we gushed at how pretty the first course was. Cold starters in the form of prawns in soy sauce, eel wrapped omelette and tiny pickled pink shrimp. The pink shrimp was interesting. It was sweet, salty and sour at the same time. I couldn't stop eating it. Second course was clams in clear broth followed very quickly by a sashimi platter. I was disappointed by the soup not for the taste but by the lack lustre bowl. After the pretty basket in the first course, I was expecting a beautiful porcelain bowl but instead I got the standard lacquered one. The clams looked so pale with the strands of spring onions floating around like ghosts in the clear soup. It was very tasty, almost a bit too salty for me.

The next course was grilled fish which was dense and flavourful. I loved the pickled lotus that came with it. It was sweet, sharp and crunchy and was perfect with the salty fish. The next course was tempura in the form of crispy golden coins. I thought it was a nice touch that they had chopped up the prawns and fried it with lotus. There were also two small green chillies to go with it. I thought we were done but we hadn't had our simmered dish yet. It was beautifully presented in a pale blue bowl. I wasn't sure what it was but it was pretty! I think it was leek. We forgot to ask the waitress. It came with a thick jelly-like gravy and strands of faux sharks fin. It was unusual but delicious. Finally, we were served rice with salmon roe, pickles and mushroom broth. The mushroom broth was really intense, like a good porcini stock. Yummy!

I was still feeling peckish so I ordered a maki with toro, uni and crispy salmon skin. If you like salmon skin, you'll like this one. It was super crunchy. It was RM22++ for the four pieces but worth it because it was to die for! For dessert, the dreaded watermelon slice but I was wrong! It was kiwifruit and a single strawberry resting in whipped cream. Phew! My partner ordered lavender ice cream (RM14++). I cannot begin to explain how strange it tasted. I couldn't smell the lavender but when I put it in my mouth, I became disoriented. Oh my God! Why am I in Lovely Lace? Or am I in the toilet??! Shudder. And I was so shocked, or dumb, that I took another bite. Actually. it wasn't all that bad. The texture of the ice cream is like gelato but the taste was just too odd. A little too much like spritzing air freshener in your mouth.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Soree? Oh Swah-ray!

I can't believe I've lost my pictures to this post! They've disappeared!
Its rather unfortunate that the logo of Soiree makes it look like Sories from a far. I'm so sorrys. Hahaha..er...Anyway, Soiree is only two month's old and the latest arrival on the quiet neighbourhood of Jalan Damai. We decided to sit in the garden up front which has a lovely big tree that towers over the deck where the tables were. I would advise that you sit in the garden or on the patio because the inside is not very cosy. They have not done very much to the interior. I'm guessing that maybe they haven't finished because it would be a shame if they don't as the house has so much potential.
The chef hails from Bon Ton/Top Hat so there is no surprise at the similarities in the menu. There is a good variety of Western favourites and a smattering of Asian dishes in the form of rice platters. The three of us ordered a platter each from the Asian menu. I ordered the Malasie platter that came with basmati rice, sotong sambal, kerabu pucuk paku, fried chicken and pumpkin curry. While the sotong sambal and pumpkin curry were quite flat, the kerabu pucuk paku was simply divine. It had a slightly charred taste which was very unusual but it was delicious nonetheless. I did not enjoy the fried chicken at all. It wasn't very tasty but it was the texture that really put me off. It was very soft and almost slimey. Nasty chicken meat. 1 out of 4 makes my platter uninspiring. I had to use the flash on my camera which resulted in some pretty crappy pictures.
Hunky and Dween's platters were similarly uninspiring. I was too full to have dessert but Hunky had a lemon delicious pudding and Dween has coconut pancakes. The lemon pudding had a lovely fluffy texture but the sweetness was too intense for me. The coconut pancakes were very thick and stodgy but the caramelised grated coconut was lovely, fragrant and not too sweet. On the plus side, the portions are very generous. And the friendly service and ambience really saved the meal because although we were less than impressed with our food, the sound of leaves rustling in the night and flicker of scented candles lifted our moods.
There is also a spa somewhere in that big house. Perhaps this is more a place where you would come for a massage and have something light to eat with a couple of drinks. Anyway, who knew Jalan Damai would turn into a little haven for restaurants. If Bukit Bintang is Little Arab, then Jalan Damai must be Saudi Arabia Junior. We noticed a stylo-mylo Japanese restaurant up the road from Soiree that Hunky has promised to take me to. Yay!

Monday, March 26, 2007

Whats The Point?

Whats the point, you might ask if you were Chinese. Whats the point of going to a Chinese restaurant that doesn't serve pork? I'll have to say, because when you take pork out of the equation, you'll more likely try many, many, many other dishes. I've only heard good things from friends who have been to Maju Palace. Last Saturday, I found myself feeling somewhat car sick driving up the very tight circular ramp at Maju Junction that led to the restaurant. I was expecting to find a restaurant full of non-Chinese. How wrong was I? Not only was the restaurant full of Chinese, it was a full blown wedding with karaoke! After standing around like a jilted lover for about 5 minutes, I finally got hold of a waitress and was led to a room where my friends were waiting. It was a miserable looking room. There was only one other table occupied and I think they were staff. My friends had already ordered. We had fried tofu with chilli sauce and pickled mango & cucumber, lamb cutlets, steamed cod, crab fried with salted egg yolk, stir-fried vegetables and mushrooms stir-fried with some sort of clam.

The pickled mango and cucumber made the tofu dish special. Otherwise it would've been just pan-fried tofu treading water in an ocean of diluted Lingham's. I never like ordering lamb or beef at Chinese restaurants simply because they always put so much tenderiser in the meat. The lamb cutlet was very tasty, with a hint of pepper and honey but the texture was like tofu. The two best dishes were the crab with salted egg yolk and steamed cod. The crab has a crispy coat of salted egg that was both sweet and salty at the same time, and the texture was fresh and springy. I am yet to have bad steamed cod at a Chinese restaurant. This slab of white marble cod was moist, flakey and delicious with cilantro. We ordered two desserts to share. One was black sesame ice cream and the other, glutinous rice dumplings stuffed with black sesame in ginger water. The ice cream was terrible! It was cheap vanilla ice cream with roughly chopped black sesame seeds thrown in and refrozen. The rice dumplings were much better. Alot of sesame but the dough was a little too thick and the ginger water was barely lukewarm.

All in all it was a good meal. However, the bill came up to over RM90 each for the five of us. I thought that was very high considering a) I've been to canteens with more ambience and b) there were only 2 seafood dishes. Unfortunately I do not have the bill. If we paid RM200 for cod and ONE crab, that still leaves RM260 for tofu, vegetables, lamb, dessert and tea. I know this is part of the Noble House group but they can't expect to charge the same prices. At least Noble House has a faux Frangipani-type pseudo ambience. What does Maju Palace have?

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Whiney Cheesy Cow

I'm contemplating attending Frangipani's cheese & wine evening. Their cheese are always so fab! The only way I would be able to truly enjoy this is if I go to the gym today. Think I need to burn 1000 calories to justify one night of cheese bliss. Oh sod it, who wants to go eat cheese with me?! Yaaaaay.....


Cont: So I did end up feasting on a smorgasbord of hard, creamy, crumbly and pongy cheese! The cheese were brought back from France on their trip recently. I was told that they are all unpasteurised and supposedly tastes completely different and superior to the pasteurised varieties that we get here. I think the French pride themselves on unpasteurised cheese where else the argument goes that its the technique and good quality milk that produces a fantastic cheese. I don't eat enough cheese to taste the difference, I just thought they tasted bloody excellent!

There were 6 boards laid out on the bar in their own groups. I started with the mild soft cheeses and worked my way towards the blue varieties. It took all my discipline to not go straight to the blue. Their knobbly, deformed blue-veined bodies were calling out for me everytime I walked past. I'm glad I refrained because by the time I hit the hard cheeses, I could no longer taste the mild soft ones. I made the mistake of picking up the goats cheese. Phwoarh!! Gag! The taste is rancid! I can't even begin to describe how vile it was. I guess it would be a cross between my nephew's regurgitated milk and licking a goat's ass. Blechhh. Never again!

There was beautiful blue-veined creature that I fell in love with. It was delicately sweet upon the first bite but it slowly unveiled a salty, almost spicy bite as it crumbled away in my mouth. I could've eaten the whole block of it. I was so upset when I returned for a second helping to discover that someone had eaten it all! I was bitching to Hunky about it, then he points to his plate and there it was! Clever Hunky!! I want to say that I am off cheese after that very heavy but utterly pleasurable evening. Alas, I am craving it even more!

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

So Much Relish, So Little Meat

After three dinners there is still a cup of plum & balsamic onion relish left. My sister cooks like my Mum, in excess. My friends hate the way I cook, which is just enough. There are never any leftovers. I know that is somewhat unorthodox being Asian and all. One must always have more and not less. Hence, 9-course Chinese dinners and chicken rice like we're setting up stall. Growing up in my family, I have a fear of leftovers. I am overcome by guilt if I don't eat it. At the same time, I know I'll never be able to catch up with the way my Mum cooks. I will only die trying.

On Monday, I roasted a duck. Four people ate it with half a cup of relish. Last night, I cooked pork chops for three people and we used under half a cup of relish. I'm going to throw the damn relish away because I can't bear eating it anymore! Anyway, I've never cooked pork chops before because... Hmm, I don't know why. Perhaps I'm not sure how one should handle pork chops. They always seem to be on the tough and dry side. And this is the moment Kylie Kwong saves the day again. Flicking through her book, I came across a recipe for pork cutlets. Borrowing the cooking method, I made a simple recipe to go with the bottomless relish:

  • 4 pork chops, about 200g each
  • sprig of rosemary, chopped
  • a hint of me ie. paprika (hahahaha...er)
  • teaspoon of sea salt
  • olive oil
1) Lovingly pound the pork chops with your fist. I figured I needed a quick workout and it probably wouldn't hurt to beat them up a bit. Add the rosemary, oil, paprika and salt, and massage tenderly into the meat. I marinated them for several hours.

2) Preheat oven to 200C. Heat oil in a pan and fry the pork for about 1.5 mins on each side. Remove, place in tray and pop them into the oven for no more than 15 minutes. Let the meat rest before devouring. If I didn't have the relish, I guess I would've made a red wine reduction with the jus. There was plenty of it in the pan.

So that was it. It was moist and had the subtle aroma of rosemary and sea salt. It tasted great with apple sauce I had made earlier in the afternoon. Mum had bought some seriously nasty giant Washington apples. Lovely aroma but texture is like soft, wet sand. Yucks. The relish added a nice tangy bite with the soft apples. Earlier in the afternoon I knew the pork wasn't going to be enough. They were smaller than expected, and my brother had invited himself over. Luckily I had some salad and Danish blue cheese in the fridge. The cheese doesn't really go with the pork but it was nice anyway. It was very mild compared to a roquefort or gorgonzola. I finally got to use my balsamic vinegar I bought from Fratelli's in Sydney. The salesperson was really helpful as I was about to make the mistake of purchasing the "best" one ie. the most expensive of that particular brand. She let me sample all the different brand of vinegars and explained the different tastes. Turns out, I like one of the cheaper ones after all! Aged for 8 years will do me fine thank you.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Care-ra-ma-lize

Sis came back from a trip to Sydney earlier this week. As usual, the first thing we talk about is food. She said that the one meal that stood out was at Billy Kwong in Surry Hills. She said Kylie’s food was surprisingly uncomplicated, fresh and delicious. So I made her vow never to make fun of Kylie and her love for “caramelise” anymore. I've always believed in her food. Ok, apart from her Hokkien mee. That was just too “radical” for me. I mean, “pickled carrots”? I’m sure I probably would’ve liked it but it did make me dubious for a minute. Anyway, Sis was so impressed she bought Kylie’s cookbook and whipped up some dishes with the meats she brought back from Oz. I still had a piece of wagyu scotch fillet in the freezer from my trip so we added that into the pile.

Sis made Kylie's marinated lamb rack with blood plum and balsamic onion relish. The meat tasted so fresh and juicy, it really didn't need the relish. The relish on its own was fabulous, sweet and tangy but it was actually too overpowering for the subtle lamb. We ended up eating the relish with the beef instead. The beef was marinated with "kecap manis" and various other ingredients before roasting in the oven. The end result was a tender, flavourful roast that reminded me of char siu. Always a good thing. We had a sweet and sour radish salad to eat with the beef. The spicy salad was a nice contrast to the fatty beef. Yati also whipped up some mashed potato with roasted garlic. It was a serenely beautiful creamy moutain that I would've willingly climbed with no fear. Sis also made mushy peas spiced up with orange zest. My brothers did not take too well to the peas. It was certainly different but perhaps too much like dessert for them.
I had ordered a cake from FatBoy, unfortunately I mixed up the dates so we could not enjoy the cake for dessert. Good news is that I have more cake to myself! Muahahaha. It’s a chocolate truffle cake laced with brandy. What a glorious beauty! Good quality chocolate with a dense velvety texture and just a thin layer of ganache. This is sophisticated adult stuff. No more poking your finger in the heavily frosted kiddie cakes. I feel so grown up! It reminds of a superb chocolate cake my brother and I used to buy religiously from the health shop near our place in London. It wasn’t as heavy but it had the same deep chocolate richness with a lighter consistency. I still have half a cake because I can only enjoy a sliver at a time. Any more I would start hallucinating clouds of chocolate meringue and dancing blocks of Cadbury.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Unforgettable

You know how they say that animals have a sixth sense? We had two welsh corgis from Australia that could sense evil. That is, if you believe that durian is the devil's fruit and you would rather kiss my ass than eat durian. Before the car even came to park, their ears would prick upwards and their stout bodies would be rigid with unease. It was a hilarious sight watching the corgis bark and growl at a bunch of durians on the floor. The corgis have long passed on and our second generation Malaysian golden retriever loves durian.

Say what you will about our prickly friend, whether good or bad, the experience is best described as unforgettable. My family and I share a special fondness for durian. I have a feeling it stemmed from my late father's borderline obsession. During those gruelling three hour bumper-to-bumper pre-PLUS highway trips back to Ipoh , if there were durians, dad would somehow be able to find it. Let me tell you, three hours of Tom Jones, second hand smoke and the occasional residual durian would traumatise most kids. Perhaps this is why I still dread going back to Ipoh and why I feel nauseous when I get into a car that smells of stale cigarettes. But that’s a whole different baggage altogether.

Every now and then, we would make a special trip back to Ipoh just to eat durians. My late grandmother had a friend with access to the best durians in Perak. She would have two types, soft creamy sweet ones for us and the bittersweet ones for dad. We would sit around the porch while grandma skilfully pried the prickly shells apart with a dangerously sharp cleaver. As a child I was fascinated by this whole process. It was like magic, secret pockets hiding plump golden durian would appear every time a shell was halved. It seemed to go on forever and we would feast on the beauties while we swat away mosquitoes in the evening sun. If there were any durians left, I would help tip their corpulent bodies into discarded Magnolia ice cream containers and they would make the journey back with us to KL.

I'm not an expert but I have tried most varieties. D-series, kampung, penang red, mountain cat king, etc… Durians with flesh so dense you almost choke when you swallow them. Soft and creamy ones with texture like whipped butter. Plump, golden ones that leave a mark when you press a finger to the smooth stretched surface. Perhaps the ones I like most of all are ones with pale wrinkled skin that gives way to thick liquid heaven. Mmmm, sublime... The picture of the tiny durian I have in my hand was taken a few days ago. It was a little present from Hunky who happen to pick it up from the ground as he walked past my neighbour's house. My neighbour's tree is over 30 years old and has the kind of wrinkly skinned durians that I love. I've only had the pleasure of eating 3 durians from his tree. They fell over the fence onto our driveway and we scooped them up like hungry vultures. They are one of the best durians I've ever had. It was flowering last month. I wait in anticipation for June to arrive when they will ripen and (hopefully) drop over the fence.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Watcha Looking At?!

You know its the time of the month when your face starts to bloat, the most comfortable bra may as well be made out of steel wool and the most tell tale sign of all - for me, is definitely eating for three. I get scared at the amount I feel compelled to eat the week before my period. It starts with irrational cravings. I search endlessly for something that will appease the unquenchable thirst for flavours. It starts with something savoury, then sweet, maybe sour and then we start all over again. By dinner time, I feel disgusted with myself for eating enough for a small family. Then there is the mood swings. I sometimes find myself on the verge of tears if I don't get to eat something simple like toast. Lets not even talk about the rage and injustice I feel when someone has eaten the last Tim Tam (sorry, I didn't really mean to throw the Astro remote control at you).
The next morning, I will tell myself that I must not give into the cravings while I try and move the bulge, that is my tummy, around. This is when I wish I had a pair of high waisted jeans I can tuck my fat into. Instead my low-rise jeans are cutting off my blood circulation and my stomach has formed a cantilever that Frank Lloyd Wright couldn't have designed better.

The irony is that even when I don't eat, the tight feeling in my jeans makes me feel about as attractive as a bullfrog. And just when I feel like I want to surrender to the devil inside my head, someone says to me, "Hey you've lost weight". I am surprised and somewhat offended. After all, can't this person see how bloated and ugly I am?
I laugh and thank the person for the compliment because I am an idiot who let herself get all worked up over 2kg (okay, maybe 1.5kg) that I know I will lose by the end of the week. I blame the hormones for playing tricks on my rational self. The best part is I get to do this all over again next month. Meanwhile, I will continue to enjoy this coffee that will make me retain water...

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Izzy Breezy

I've heard about enough but never quite figured out what it was all about. Easy, EZ, Eezee, and the list goes on. Somehow I think this particular Izzy's was not the one I had heard about. Izzy's Cafe opened last November in Northpoint, Midvalley. Nestled in between the two buildings, it has a lot of natural light and a real sense of space. A glossy red bar greets you at the entrance and you will most likely be seated by one of the proprietors of the place. This place has the makings of a club house for the offices around here.

The single A4 lunch menu will elimnate any stressful decision-making. There are four Malaysian dishes and several Italian-skewed dishes to choose from. I ordered nasi lemak with sambal sotong, kari ayam and rendang. It was $14.50++ for a combination of two and $17.50 for all three. Being kiasu, of course I ordered all three. It was a tiny helping so if you are looking for a light lunch, look no further than nasi lemak! Two cubes of beef, one piece of chicken and slivers of sotong. Everything was tasty. The beef was fragrant and tender, the chicken was pleasant and the sotong was spicy with a hint of sweetness. For that price, I expect a little "wow" thrown in. Hunky's caesar salad ($18++) was a substantial portion with a perfect poached egg and grilled chicken resting above greens. Lem had ordered nasi ayam ($16++) that came with soup that tasted, "too sweet to be true" as she took another sip just to be sure. The fried chicken tasted of margerine which wasn't all bad when you combine it with the rice and kicap.

Overall it was pleasant. It is essentially a more upmarket cafe. As long as the prices don't change and they continue to serve simple food, I think it will do well with the crowd around here. Although the space and bar has potential for more "upmarket" food. If they do, I hope they stop serving $5++ instant ice lemon tea. Thats just freaking lazy.